Thursday, November 28, 2013

Steve: CXNE South Shields – worked over by the hard working folk from up north.

Six bikes, spare wheels, petrol jetwash, 200 litres of water, workstand, tools, kitbags and the all important stove for a brew. Deduct this from the carrying capacity of a long wheelbase VW Type 5 and you have just enough space to cram in four people.

We arrived to a grassland course based on the same route of the National Trophy round last season. After a couple of laps, it was quite apparent that there would be zero return on doing lap, after lap, after lap in practice as the course was cutting up rapidly and changing literally as the minutes went by. It was quite simply going to be a case of running a soft front tyre, harder rear and letting my lines develop organically. Organically…..what does that mean?..... typically the learning of the best lines from the sporadic accumulation of organic matter over my skinsuit when falling off. It kind of seems every race is super slippery at the moment…….

Third row of the grid suited me just fine. A funny thing to say but the open nature of the course and lack of bottlenecks meant that one way or another, I’d probably end up where I deserved to amongst the eighty starters. We got the usual warning about swearing…which always makes me laugh, as saying this and actually not swearing when the front wheel washes out on a sweeping, muddy bend are very different matters.

Off we went, full on, wide grassy course into a sweeping right hand bend at full chat. Not a bad start at all, for me, maintaining my position through a high speed first half lap. Moving up simply wasn’t an option when you’re out the seat giving it the berries out of every slow corner. After about three minutes we hit the headwind effected straight stretch with several soft Belgian Bowling Greens, now was the time for me to drive hard a get some revenge for the fast start, passing about six riders or so to sit roughly eighth or ninth….ish.

Despite my best efforts, I was very much ‘best of the rest’ at this point, with a a group of six or so going clear by about twenty meters in front. I looked round, hoping to have company to assist with the chase. I was on my own. 

After a couple of laps, I was joined from behind by another rider who decided to hit the front hard and then rode at breakneck speed into the fastest, slipperiest corner on the course. One hundred percent commitment. A 9.75 with difficulty rating of 3 for his sliding crash with reverse pike that sent the pit crews scattering.

A quick glance round and I knew what the situation was at mid race, one rider, Brian, who’s as strong as hell at about ten seconds and that was about it, six or seven up front, me, Brian then the rest of the race. A reasonable bike change and the clean bike felt great with Brian at about five seconds.

With two laps to go, going into the one eighty bend before the pit entrance the bike felt odd, I didn’t twig. Past the pits, bump. WTF was that? Bump again…..rear wheel puncture and now on the rim. I pressed on the best I could not wanting to think about the carbon rim on my back wheel.

Half a lap later, back onto a dirty, malfunctioning bike….but at least with air in both tubs and Brian was with me. Just before the bell, Brian came off my wheel and through, fast and hard. At the time I naively thought it was him coming through to drive us on, it wasn’t, it was an attack and one that broke the elastic. He was gone before I could react.

The last lap was simply about staying smooth, maintaining my position hanging on to my effort. No risks, no drama and do what I needed to.

I took the finish in 9th pace, getting points for 8th as one guy was a Junior. I finished about 2.50 down on the winner, which given that I’d ridden pretty much the whole race alone, I was happy enough with. Had I not punctured….maybe another place but who knows. It doesn’t really matter does it? No.

This season, I’ve raced similar races to in 2012, however, I’m just over 50% in front of last year’s BC points total already….so there’s plenty to be happy about, steady, modest progress coming from plenty of practice at riding cx badly.

Happy times, tough racing with genuine mates and loving running a team who’s sponsor, is owned by a bloke who’s as much part of our team as any of our riders.       

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